A curious procedure used in Wesminister parliaments is the so-called ‘six months’ (or ‘three months’) amendment, which provides a method for opposing a reading of a bill by moving an amendment to the motion (e.g. ‘That the bill be now read a second time’) to omit the word ‘now’ and substitute ‘this day six months’. If carried, the bill is finally disposed of and not, as the wording suggests, allowed to be revived after six months.

Naturally, this raises the question of how such an oddly-worded motion came to be. An answer is provided by Lord Brabazon of Tara, Chairman of Committees of the UK House of Lords at the time that the Procedure Committee reported to the House on a number of matters, including the ‘six months’ amendments. From column 1035 of the Hansard for 26 Nov 2007:

It may interest noble Lords to know that the form of words “this day six months” became fixed in convention in the first half of the 19th century at the same time as the convention was established that parliamentary Sessions should also last six months; from February to August. The point of the amendment was therefore not to invite the Government to bring back the Bill in six months, but to ensure that the Government could not bring it back until after Parliament had been safely prorogued.

The Procedure Committee recommended in its report that the practice be replaced by an amendment to the effect of ‘that this House declines to give the bill a second reading’. After some debate, a motion to reject the portions of the report relating to the recommendation was withdrawn, and the report was agreed to.

Interestingly, in Australia, while the latest sixth edition (2012) of House of Representatives Practice still mentions the ‘six months’ amendment (p. 371), Standing Order 146 was amended on 13 November 2013 (p. 90 of Hansard) to introduce a clearer form, namely to omit ‘now’ and substitute ‘not’ (i.e. ‘That the bill be not read a second time’).